Wednesday, June 10, 2009
In Memoriam: A Eulogy for Harvey Westby
Over the past week I've spent a lot of time thinking about my grandfather who passed away on Wednesday, June 3rd. It seems I'm meant to be far away when these things happen. The only thing was, unlike when I said goodbye to my grandma for the last time before heading to Hong Kong, I knew it was goodbye. But when I left Oregon in August, I didn't have the feeling that the end would be so near.
There are so many thoughts and stories that have come to my mind over the past week. I think of trips to the beach, counting cars until Grandma and Grandpa would arrive with their strong breakfast coffee and amazing crunchy flat sugar cookies, hours of playing with poodles, and wondering how they can bark so shrilly. Going to visit Grandpa always meant going out to his favorite restaurant of the moment, be that Sherry's, Ruby Tuesdays, or Izzys. It meant black licorice in the candy bowls that I would avoid and Mom would happily eat. It meant warm hugs and those funny Grandpa kisses, always wet and trumpet shaped, such a unique experience.
As a child I always thought the coolest thing ever was the fact that Diane's Foods was named after my mom. I used to tell new people I met that they were eating tortillas, or taco shells, or chips named after my mom. More than once I was scoffed at by people who would say, "It's named after my mom too because her name is Diane." To which I would proudly reply, "Um, I'm pretty sure your Grandpa didn't start the company. So I'm gonna say it's named after my mom Diane, and not yours!" It was a bit of a tragedy to me when the name fully changed over to Mission, but I still have an old taco shell box, and a key chain that bear the original title.
Grandpa collected so many things. I remember when he got really excited about these crystal and gold figurines. Every time we would come and visit there would be a new one to look at, some small sparkling animal to admire.
He also had a great love of cars. I can recall so many great cars that we got to ride in when we would come to visit. And his generosity was such that our family received the benefit of new cars as well. I'll never forget the day my parents came home late and Julie and I had been waiting and waiting, hoping they'd bring home a pizza because we weren't in the mood to cook anything. When they finally arrived we were disappointed that they didn't have one, but, despite the late hour, they said we could go out to Corvallis and get one anyway. As we headed out to the car I froze. Our White Taurus had mysteriously morphed into a White Mystique. That was the way Grandpa was. Always making sure that we were well cared for, providing new machines whenever they were needed.
Grandpa and I had interesting little arguments as well. Visiting him in his later years meant entering a house where Fox news was blazing 24/7. While his rather crotchety poodle Mitzi couldn't abide the sound of music, she seemed not to mind the sound of the news. I would always wonder over how he could watch news so much, and we'd disagree about whether it was better to spend your time watching shows, which he said were boring and all the same, or the news, which I said was endlessly repetitive.
While we didn't have much in common, I loved him all the same. I'll never forget the day I was trying to pack for my fourth trip to Hong Kong. At the time I didn't know this would be the last 6 month stretch I would be in that amazing city. I was trying to go through old papers and things under my bed, continually cleaning out the past, when my mom came in and said Grandpa was on the phone wanting to know how much money I had left on my school loans. I didn't have the figure at the moment, but I looked for it right away, and gave her the information. In order to support my mission work at the orphanage he wrote a check and the debt that would would still be over my head otherwise was wiped clean. That's just the giving sort of man he was.
I'm so sorry that I wasn't able to really say goodbye to him. I wish so much I could be with my family now, to share the memories and to say a final farewell. It's been a difficult week, but God has held me in His arms and I've been able to really see just how happy Grandpa is now. He's free from pain, breathing freely as he hasn't in years. He has been reunited with Grandma and so many others who have gone ahead. Most of all, he is able to stand face to face with Jesus, washed fully clean by His love. I can just imagine him there, whistling with the angels as I remember him whistling in church, sometimes smooth and clear, sometimes a warbling tune. I will miss him a lot, but I know I will see him again in Heaven, and that for him, this is a time to rejoice and not to mourn.